The Instruments Used in Electronic Dance Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the electronic instruments used in making electronic dance music.


In electronic music, a synthesizer is an instrument that creates sound by generating electrical signals that are converted into sound waves. Synthesizers can imitate the sounds of other instruments or create new, original sounds. They are often played with a keyboard, but they can also be controlled by computers, sequencers, and other electronic devices.

The first commercial synthesizer was the Moog synthesizer, invented in 1964 by Robert Moog. Since then, there have been many different types of synthesizers developed for a wide variety of uses. Synthesizers are used in many different genres of music, including pop, rock, jazz, and classical.

Drum machines

During the 1970s and 1980s, drum machines were used to create repetitive, electronic beats in disco and dance music. They allowed artists to create tracks without the need for a drummer, and meant that dance music could be created by anyone with access to a drum machine.

The first commercially successful drum machine was the Roland TR-808, which was released in 1980. The TR-808 quickly became a staple of disco and dance music, thanks to its distinctive sound. It was used on some of the biggest hits of the decade, including Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock.”

The Roland TR-909 was another popular drum machine of the 1980s. It was used on hits like New Order’s “Blue Monday” and Madonna’s “Vogue.” The TR-909 is particularly well-known for its bass drum sound, which has become iconic in electronic dance music.

Today, drum machines are still widely used in electronic dance music. They play a key role in shaping the sound of this genre, and are an essential part of many producers’ arsenals.


A sampler is an electronic or digital music instrument which uses sound recordings (or synthetic recordings) of real instruments, drums, noises, and voices. These recordings can then be played back at different pitches (to create melodies) or at different speeds (to create effects), and often with loops so that the original recording can be played over and over again.


In electronic dance music, a Sequencer is an electronic device that is used to create and store sequences of musical notes, usually in the form of a melody. Sequencers are often used to create the main melody of a song, as well as other parts such as the bassline or drums.


MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is the standard electronic communication protocol used by musical instruments, computers and other electronic devices to control and synchronize music. It was first developed in the early 1980s by a group of engineers working for Roland Corporation, a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments. MIDI features a wide range of capabilities, including the ability to control multiple instruments at once, create complex multi- track recordings and synchronize music with visual media such as video or Lighting displays.


Digital audio workstations (DAWs) are the tools that electronic music producers use to create and manipulate sounds. There is a wide variety of DAWs available on the market, from simple and easy-to-use applications to complex and powerful ones. Some of the most popular DAWs include Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, and Reason.

While there are many different types of DAWs available, they all share some common features. For example, most DAWs allow you to record, edit, and mix digital audio files. Additionally, most DAWs also come with a variety of built-in instruments and effects that you can use to create your own sounds.

If you’re just getting started in electronic music production, it’s important to choose a DAW that is right for you. There is no “best” DAW out there – it all comes down to personal preference. However, some DAWs are more popular than others, so it’s a good idea to check out what other producers are using before making your decision.

Outboard gear

Electronic dance music is usually made with a combination of software and hardware. The hardware that is used can be divided into two categories: outboard gear and instruments.

Outboard gear is equipment that is used to process sounds, such as audio effects processors and mixers. Instruments are devices that are played by musicians, such as synthesizers and drum machines.

Both types of equipment are important in electronic dance music, but outboard gear tends to be more important for producers and DJs, while instruments are more important for live performers.

Some common types of outboard gear that are used in electronic dance music include:

-Audio effects processors: These devices are used to add effects to sounds, such as reverb or delay.
-Mixers: Mixers are used to combine multiple sound sources, such as different instruments or tracks from a computer.
-Samplers: Samplers are devices that can play back recorded sound samples, such as drum loops or vocal phrases.

Some common types of instruments that are used in electronic dance music include:
-Synthesizers: Synthesizers are electronic devices that create sounds by generating electrical signals. They can imitate other instruments or create completely new sounds.
-Drum machines: Drum machines are devices that play back pre-recorded drum beats. They can be programmed to play any kind of drumbeat, from a simple 4/4 beat to a complex breakbeat.

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